Rev. Phil Letizia is assistant pastor of discipleship at Boynton Beach (Fla.) Community Church (PCA) and a doctoral student in practical theology at the University of Aberdeen. He is married to Jenny, and has two children, Oliver (5), and Jane (4).  


Four years ago our daughter Jane came into the world. In extraordinary fashion, she was born in our driveway during the pitch-black hours of the night before we could even attempt to drive to the hospital. Life-altering moments filled with confusion, adrenaline, and every kind of emotion. Those moments also carried with them the realization that Jane was born with Down syndrome.

I’ve been a pastor for ten years. Five of those years were spent organizing a new church in our hometown near the Ft. Lauderdale area of South Florida. We felt God had given us a specific and unique calling, one that would require all of our attention, creativity, and passion. However, life took a significant turn that night, for me personally, for our family, and for my ministry as a pastor.

In the four years since, I’ve had much to read, learn, and reflect upon. This new life God has given has challenged us on every front. From doing away with typical parenting milestones, to adopting wider and more expansive views of God’s grace and the beauty of his diverse people. Amidst all of this, my calling to pastor and minister continued. While learning this new life with its new language and new conversations, I’ve also had to continue to lead. At times that task has been beyond difficult and completely overwhelming.

Jane

In our current cultural moment and for what seems to be the indefinite future, leaders who take up any kind of residence in the public space or in front of people, are tempted to give quick and certain responses to the teetering events of the day. Instead of longer and more meaningful discourse on the overall climate of our lives, we are intoxicated with commenting on each and every daily “weather event.”[1] In my opinion, this is not limited to a running political or societal commentary, but also the extreme desire many of us have to speak about our experiences perhaps even before we’ve fully absorbed their meaning.

For instance, with the ever-growing ease in which we can produce content today, consider how many blogs, websites, instagram feeds and YouTube channels are devoted to motherhood, fatherhood, adoption, or a family’s journey with disability.  I am struck by how many are produced from the perspective of someone relatively new to parenting, or relatively new to life with a disabled child or family member. Yes, we are gleaning from each other’s experiences, but more than anything, I find myself craving to hear from those who have walked the long, slow road ahead of us. We need parenting instagram feeds produced by parents with adult children. In turn, we need more stories of disability to come from people with disabilities themselves, and from older families of disability who can help mark the path before us. However, that would require many of us to slow down and actually let our stories and experiences work on us and shape us before we lead, which in itself my friends, is a challenging word for a pastor to hear!

 

Stay tuned for the second part of Phil’s insights on Delayed Leadership, which will be posted in a week!


[1] For a helpful discussion of our cultural moment, including defining the differences between climate, and weather events, watch Greg Thompson’s talk, “Understanding Our Climate.” Retrieved from http://qideas.org/videos/understanding-our-climate/

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